Sad end to Manny's impressive career
While the Red Sox and Yankees played in a vortex of hype at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon, Manny Ramirez left baseball via a news release.
At one time, Ramirez was one of the most captivating players in the game. In fact, he held that status for a decade or more. But that period ended with his suspension for a positive drug test in May 2009. It marked the end of his Hollywood honeymoon with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since then, he’s been some combination of caricature, footnote and has-been.
In as a slugger. Out as a punchline.
The official cause of termination, so to speak, was another “issue” under Major League Baseball’s drug treatment program. In retrospect, the announcement Friday should not have come as such a surprise.
A source told FOXSports.com's senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal that Ramirez had a positive drug test in spring training. Apparently, Manny didn’t want to appeal.
Apparently, he didn’t want to serve another suspension.
So he decided it was time to walk away.
Too bad he didn’t take the clue from his performance last year, when pitchers in both leagues demonstrated that Ramirez, far from his competitive peak, couldn’t even hit for power like an ordinary left fielder.
In 90 games last season for the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, he hit just nine home runs. The .460 slugging percentage was his lowest in the majors since a cameo in 1993, when he was a 21-year-old rookie.
He should have known then. Frankly, the Tampa Bay Rays should have known then. Instead, the sides agreed on a one-year contract that was supposed to bring power to the lineup and excitement at the gate.
When the Rays and Red Sox met this spring, David Ortiz saw his friend and thought he was in “one of the best shapes I’ve ever seen him.” The Boston dugout was impressed by his approach. “That was the Manny Ramirez everybody knew,” said Ortiz, his longtime Red Sox teammate.
But Manny batted .059 in five games — and disappeared.
“Crazy, man,” Ortiz told reporters after the Red Sox (finally) won on Friday. “That was the last thing I was expecting, for him to retire and go through all the situations.
"I don’t really know the details, how everything went down. It’s sad. To see a player with that much talent, and an unbelievable career, get out of the game with negativity . . . ”
We don’t yet know what the positive test was for. But it almost doesn’t matter. His credibility, which zeroed out with his suspension two years ago, is now somewhere in the negative integers — along with his chances of enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. And if he had two positive tests after MLB began issuing steroid suspensions in 2005, how can we give him the benefit of the doubt that his numbers from the 1990s weren’t juiced, too?
I don’t know how the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will handle every candidate from the Steroid Era.
But I do know this: It would be exceedingly difficult to vote for someone who was stripped of his dignity as he walked out the door. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to one of the best hitters of this generation.
There has always been a goofy, likable side to Manny Ramirez. We loved watching him hit, whether he wore a flattop or dreadlocks, as long as he wasn’t facing our favorite teams. He was a 12-time All-Star. He was the World Series MVP when the Red Sox broke The Curse.
And yet, the steroids are as much a part of his legacy as the statistics.
We live in a society that loves to criticize its heroes — perhaps even more than cheer for them. Ramirez’s retirement will prompt snarky tweets, goofy Photoshop images and cheap one-liners. A man’s reputation is getting trampled. It’s quite tragic, actually.
But the saddest truth of all is that Manny Ramirez brought this on himself.